Following the Michigan basketball team’s 70-44 win over Northern Michigan, Wolverines’ coach John Beilein discussed the play from sophomore guard Aubrey Dawkins, senior guard Caris LeVert, a shaky-but-improving defense, finding a rotation that works and more.
On Aubrey Dawkins’ play:
“We just talked about how efficient it was. He didn’t have to force anything, he’s making more plays. He made a 2-on-1 play that he blew up in practice yesterday. He watched the video with us today, and then he made it perfect today. That’s the application we stress with all of our guys — how we’re going to apply what we’re learning every day and how soon we can do it in the game. So that was good.
“He also had six rebounds, that’s something he wasn’t doing last year, we’re encouraging him to — unless the guard is underneath or the shot comes from the corner by a guard — be by the backboard.”
On playing Moe Wagner
“It was (spur of the moment). We had talked with him quite a bit about this, and he is — the way thing are today with the fifth year, it’s not what it used to be. That fifth year they might not be playing with you, they might be somewhere else. So I just really wanted to see him in a game, and I love what we saw. He was active, he’s got a motor.
“He’s got some things he’s got to work on — he doesn’t have the strength to do what we want him to do in the Big Ten yet — but that’s what we can work on in the in-between sessions the best we can without inhibiting his ability to play the next game.”
On having Caris LeVert back
“You just don’t have to have this play card that is trying to dial things up all the time. He’s just going to make plays in space and in transition, which he was really good at today. Or he’ll just opt out of the offensive set because they’re playing him a certain way. He sees the floor well, his passing ability is way underrated, and we like to have the ball in his hands.
“I wouldn’t say I’m less relaxed, but you’re not racking your brain trying to find ways to score. He helps you a lot in that area.”
On the defense
“The whole length that we have out there, that’s huge for us to be able to just, as you wall up with people and you go down the line you need to be able to go like this, and those hands that are up make a huge difference in seeing over a ball screen. A guy comes off a ball screen, you stick your hands up, it blows up a lot, especially if he’s 6-3 and you’re 6-7. It’s something we’ve got to play to, and something we’ll do even more of when we play more zone in the future.”
On Spike Albrecht’s performance
“It was good. I wanted to push him but you can’t really push him for 10 minutes in there, but you could see he was laboring right after five (minutes), that’s why I wanted to get him out for two or three and throw him right back in there. That made another step for him.
“He needs to shoot the ball when he’s open, so when you talk to him, tell him to shoot when he’s open. He’s got to shoot instead of trying to do these other things. He’s an incredible shooter, and he needs to do that. But other than that it was good to have him out there.”
On Kam Chatman’s play
“He’s trying to still understand how he can fit and really effectively help this team, and it’s probably going to be in the way he did it in his high school days and making plays. He threw a nice pass to Mark (Donnal) that was really … he’s got this sense for the game, now he’s just got to channel it all in the right direction.
“I don’t think he’s going to have to guard a 6-4 man again, that guy was really quick, so that was a disadvantage and why D.J. (Wilson) played a lot too, Kam guarding a guard is not a good matchup sometimes.”
On putting the pieces together
“It is much more difficult that I thought, as we’re waiting for the team to get 100-percent healthy and with more pieces. Last year, it actually was pretty simple after we had the injuries. We’ve only got seven or eight guys, so this is what we’re going to do. Now we’ve got to try and figure out what’s the best way to put this together moving forward? What personalities, what talent level, what position play is evolving? It’s evolving every day, and Zak Irvin can come into the mix any day now is our hope, and all of a sudden now that dynamic changes.
“It’s going to make us better, and it’s my job to make sure that it makes us better, but I wouldn’t call it fun yet. It is good when we can get it. The best teams have eight or nine good players in their rotation.”
On any negatives seen in the game
“In the first half when we didn’t finish some possessions by fouling I think three or four times we fouled with less than five, and that can’t happen. I think they had some airballs where we were heading up the floor when someone needs to get the rebound — we’ve got to finish possessions every time. That is backbreaking when you don’t finish and now you’ve got to guard 35 more (seconds).
“As always, when you get these skinny guys and you develop your bodies, they don’t like to be physical, and you’ve got to have physical blockouts, so that would be the two things I know we can do better.”
On inexperience showing early on
“Some of our turnovers were off dribble drive where we just jump into the air and try to make a play and you just can’t do that. And then there were other turnovers where we rebounded the ball and we’re falling out of bounds, we’re rebounding with one hand, there’s thing that we can clean up.
“But yeah, it’s going to take a while right now — Duncan (Robinson)’s playing two positions, he was unsure what to do. Tell him when you talk to him just shoot it if you’re unsure because the ball goes in a lot.”